Belfast Telegraph

Human TB cases on the rise

The number of cases of tuberculosis (TB) in humans has increased by almost a third in Northern Ireland.

The rise followed a relatively low number the previous year. About half those affected were born outside the UK.

New drug-resistant types of the serious lung infection have emerged which are more difficult to treat and can result in higher death rates, the Public Health Agency (PHA) warned.

Last year 97 cases were reported compared with 74 the previous year.

Dr Michael Devine said: "The risk is that we become complacent, and with new drug-resistant types of TB evolving, it is essential that we maintain vigilance and know what to look out for."

Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis is a major public health concern worldwide, as it is more difficult to treat and can result in more serious disease with higher mortality, Dr Devine said. Globally, about 5% of TB cases are estimated to be resistant.

The PHA medic added: "The increase (in Northern Ireland) is due to year-on-year fluctuations, with figures in 2013 being relatively low.

"However there has been a trend in recent years of an increasing proportion occurring in people born outside the UK from high incidence countries. Although in Northern Ireland approximately half the cases are UK-born."

In recent years the proportion of resistant cases across the UK has remained stable at 2%. Since 2004, there have been 12 in Northern Ireland, although none last year.

Dr Devine said: "Although people may think of TB as a disease of the past, TB today remains an important public health problem throughout much of the world, causing the deaths of more than a million people each year, mostly in developing countries.

"With effective treatment, TB can be a curable disease and World TB Day is an opportunity to raise public awareness to stop transmission of TB by encouraging early diagnosis and treatment."

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